When considering teaching, learning, and management, behaviorism is very much alive in the classroom today. Behaviorism is based on three principals: learning is manifested by a change in behavior, the environment shapes our behavior, contiguity and reinforcement are essential in explaining the learning process (Smith, 1999). Behaviorism is a learning theory that is based on the principle to reinforce desirable behaviors and ignore or punish undesirable behaviors (Laureate Education Inc., 2008). Despite varying views on behaviorism’s effectiveness in learning, it continues to be used to teach and motivate. Learning is more meaningful and effective when the student is active (Smith, 1999). Howard Pitler et al. outlined the importance of reinforcing effort to motivate students. This strategy is based on the principle of self-efficacy (2007, 155). Students’ levels of belief in their abilities play an essential role in their actual performances. Just as the Little Engine that Could believed he could make it over the hill, students must believe that they are capable of learning. Therefore, they will learn. Much of their successes are dependent upon their efforts. Students should be taught the importance of effort and how to monitor their own efforts. Technology can play a vital role in monitoring effort. Through the use of electronic spreadsheets, data collection tools, and survey resources, students can compare efforts and outcomes (Pitler, 2007). In reinforcing effort, students are able to see a correlation with effort and achievement. This is an important connection to make in school and work.
Another example of behaviorism in the classroom today is homework and practice (Pitler, 2007). Frequent practice and repetition of information is necessary for learning to occur (Smith, 1999). Although some have contended that homework does not necessarily correlate with learning, it offers students the opportunity to practice and apply what they have learned. Teachers should make sure that the amount of homework is applicable to learning and assigned in appropriate amounts. The length and amount of homework should vary depending on age and grade level. Parental involvement should be minimal; however parents should offer guidance when needed. If homework is assigned, it should be addressed or commented on so the learner may recognize its purpose (Pitler, 2007). If assigned appropriately, homework can be beneficial in reinforcing learning. Depending on availability, technology can be incorporated in homework assignments. The Internet provides a vast variety of sites that can benefit students and learning. Howard Pitler (2007) recommends the following homework sites:
Behaviorism is a useful and active learning theory in today’s classrooms. Howard Pitler’s “Reinforcing Effort” and “Homework and Practice” offer behaviorist models in which teachers can use to improve learning and integrate technology into the curriculum. Although some scholars believe that behaviorism is only useful when addressing classroom management, its fundamental principals maintain an important role in teaching curriculum (Laureate Education Inc., 2008).
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2008). Behaviorist learning theory. [Video
webcast]. Retrieved from http://www.courseurl.com
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom
instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD
Smith, K. (1999). The behaviourist orientation to learning. In The encyclopedia of informal
education. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/biblio/learning-behavourist.htm